Nuclear power: the new generation

The new Finnish nuclear reactor at Olkiluoto (OLK3)
The new Finnish nuclear reactor at Olkiluoto (OLK3)

Nuclear power may or may not be an unfortunate necessity. But a look at Finland should temper any optimism about construction costs.

The government’s decision in early January 2007 to support (or, more precisely, not oppose) the construction of nuclear power plants in the UK prompted strongly felt responses from all sides. To the electricity generating industry, nuclear power represents an attractive way of reducing emissions. To most – but by no means all – environmentalists, the push for more nuclear power is both a mistake and a missed opportunity: a mistake because no country has yet shown that nuclear waste can be stored effectively, and a missed opportunity because nuclear baseload generation reduces the incentive to develop wind and tidal power.

This article looks at what we can learn from the building of the nuclear power station at Olkiluoto (OLK3) on the western coast of Finland. The ground works started here in early 2004 and the plant is now due to open in 2011. Does this project give us confidence that nuclear power stations can be constructed at a reasonable cost and to a reliable timescale?

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